Joe Martin Stage Race
Joe Martin was a total last minute decision which I made the week of the race. My coach figured my fitness would be good coming off of Redlands because it was essentially 5 hard days of motor pacing. While a bit hesitant, I didn’t know if I was mentally prepared for that type of pain again. When I flew back in from California, I took a few days off because I ended up getting sick. I was tired and my pedal stroke felt powerless. I kept thinking how in the heck do tour riders do this for 3 weeks. With one weekend off from racing, I had a last minute opportunity to race Winston Salem after our domestic elite team’s application was accidentally looked over, but I had to turn it down. I couldn’t see myself spending all that time for a one day race after having pretty lackluster training since Redlands. I had one good motor pacing session with my dad to a fake race (Weds Worlds), did the race and then biked home. That was my hard day for the week, so after that I opted to stay in PA and race a local race instead. The local race went absolutely terribly.
For some reason before this race I thought I would be able to start a break and power away. Maybe it was some over confidence I shouldn’t have had, but I wanted to win. Without going into crazy details, I was just making really hard moves to get away but was getting out numbered by the nearby team of Cat 1’s (Alliance) and every single time I went the group chased me down. Those three guys are great racers, and absolutely did not want me in a break. Long story short- I didn’t get in one but tried mercilessly. But I think after my experience with Joe Martin, I’m starting to understand a good bit more from a bigger picture- and realize when these moves are acceptable, and when sometimes it’s okay to just accept being in the group.
First real crank
After finding out that two PA racers were driving out to Arkansas, I contacted David Guttenplan and confirmed my spot on the team. I would be racing with 2 of my original teammates at Redlands, and 2 new teammates. So on Tuesday, I got all packed, stopped by the QBP East factory, grabbed my first standard crankset from Sean Mealey (Became a real man for the first time) and met my ride. I drove with two kelly benefits riders in a 99′ volvo station wagon with no power steering. The trip is a story itself, but it was an all around good time. About 19 hours in driving time which we split up over two days. If anyone is wondering. We stayed at the La Quinta. Which is spanish for La Quinta. When I got to the Seasucker/Guttenplan host housing I was delighted to see that I had landed somewhere in man cave heaven.
My host house was a man cave of epic proportions
The first stage of Joe Martin was an uphill 2.4 mile time trial. I was stoked it was an uphill time trial and super ready to prove myself. Before Redlands I was practicing this kind of TT- so I knew if my power was there I would be ready for an awesome result. I talked to my coach and we were gunning for a top 15 finish. The plan was to hold 400 watts and then ramp it up at the end. Well- I did the exact opposite. I went out super hard, died a little, died a little more, died a little more, then died a lot. I went from flying the first 6 minutes to crawling the last 3. Losing a lot of unnecessary time because of my amateur pacing. But in hindsight- it was a great learning experience and I now know the TT course for next year.
While I may not have had the best of race, my Canadian teammate Jordan Cheyne (who I raced with at Redlands) and now refer to as 1 Cheyne, rolled to the car. He posted an 8:12. A smoking fast time which was only bested by Jamis’ Ian Crane. While having the yellow jersey would have been awesome, the chances of us defending that against the barrage of attacks would be similar to my 10 lb wiener mutt trying to fight off a 75 lb pit bull.
My ferocious wiener mutt in his battle clothing preparing for war.
Thankfully the jersey went to the best team, so we just had to ride smart and maintain second.
Jordan Cheyne-Better known as 1 cheyne (spin off of rapper 2 chainz) finished 2nd in the TT.
Stage 2-109 miles- 15th overall
Reading Phil Gaimon’s book, he talks about how important top 10 and top 15 places in NRC events were to him when he was looking for a contract. He writes about how he was desperately searching for top 10 results, because he knew that’s what the directors wanted to see. (If you haven’t picked up the book yet you should). The plan was for Coulton or I to possibly get in an early break, and whoever didn’t would make sure Jordan was safe and made it to the finish in the front group. The attacks started, Coulton was close to the break but it didn’t stick- for once in my racing career, I didn’t want to aggress anything. I was going to sit in that whole entire race.
Fun fact- Our caravan driver was a friend of one of my teammates. He was a Cuban national speed skate champion. He escaped to the US by swimming to Guantanamo Bay where he received asylum. He also likes Budweiser.
The break went and the group sat up. I was NOT used to this experience. Sure you’re still rolling 26-27 mph but it is not hard to maintain. At Redlands, the first 30 mins I was chasing KOM points, wheels, and being crazy aggressive. Here I was sitting in, coasting, eating, chatting with some riders- which made the remaining 4 hours a whole lot more bearable. The course was 1 big loop, which went through beautiful Arkansas roads, had one big hill, and one fast descent/fast flat to the uphill in town finish. The pace started to ramp up a bit before the hill came, and then when the hill came the attacks started. The group exploded and I found myself at the front. Coulton was going over the top, I was on his wheel and sat up to let him gain some distance. Eventually he was caught, everyone was back together, but it was nice to have Jordan, Coulton, and I leading the charge with Jamis. Over the top of the hill there was less than half of the field remaining ( we lost two of our teammates).
The lead into the finish was really fast, but a great time to slam some cokes and energy bars. I was feeling surprisingly good, and I wanted to first-make sure Jordan was safe, then second try my hand at some uphill sprinting. I knew it would be difficult to make it to the finish even remotely close to the front, but I was going to try. I decided that Smartstop Mtn Khakis team was the team to key off of, so I kept a close eye on them from the back. I heard them start to gather the troops, so I decided it was time to make my move with them. I checked on Jordan, he was safe in the group, so I was ready to make my move. The course was a hard left, into a difficult uphill kicker, to another kicker, then a hard right into a full blown uphill sprint. Leading into the first left hand turn, the trains started their engines. I just so happened to be the one bum sneaking a ride. I hopped on the back gripped my handlebars tight and held on. It was all I could to hold position and make it through that alley on pace. When we hit the right hand turn the lead out guys were falling off and I was still in it. While my 500 watt sprint didn’t match the front guys- it still got me a 15th. Which made me really happy. AND THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS RIGHT?!?
Stage 3- 109 miles- 53rd
THIS HURT. A LOT. Not the whole time, mostly just really really badly at one point, and then a dull death the rest of the way. The plan here was for one of us to get in an early break and the other 2 of us to protect Jordan. (One of our teammates had to ride the sag wagon on stage 2 so we were down to 4 guys). It was really really windy so the peloton was super nervous with lots of crashes. The course was 8.5 miles to the loop, 4- 23 mile loops, then 8.5 miles back. The pace was slow and waited for the break to form. Eventually Coulton bridged to a good group and that was the break for the day. I was content with this, because I found it fun protecting Jordan, grabbing bottles, chatting it up, and resting for the late move. On the 3rd lap Jamis ramped up the pace to catch the break and only 60 or so made it over the climb. We lost our other teammate so it was up to me to protect Jordan while getting bottles for the remainder of the race. With the wind being high, the group would spread out on the fast sections, and it was easy to find yourself in the gutter. So it was important to position yourself well on the fast sections.
Coming around on the 4th lap, positioning was going to be key. The hill was hard and we knew the attacks would start. Rolling through neutral feed, Jordan and I both missed bottles so I had to go back to the team car before the hill. I got us loaded up just in time for the fireworks. Due to my lack of experience, and not being very vocal, I keyed off of Jordan and where he wanted to be positioned. Sadly, as the steep section came, wheels were lost and the front group of 20 was getting away. I quickly jumped and started closing the gap. Soon after Jordan yelled, and I realized he was at the front of the second group. I sagged back and took the wind. This is where the really sharp pain took over. I was gutting myself. Due to my inexperience, I was pulling way too hard, dropping Jordan who was yelling, I would then reach my limit, he would take over a bit, and I would gut myself some more. We desperately needed help at the front (but because he was GC it wasn’t coming) FINALLY it came in the form of Cam Cogburn. I took one more pull and I said my last goodbyes. I slowly shrank down the hill, happy Jordan was still in it, but pretty shattered. About 30 seconds back was the remainder of the group, so I had no choice but to hop on. We began our 30 mile trek home.
I was a bit bummed I couldn’t latch on, but after reviewing my files I realized why. It makes me have a lot more respect for guys on the front all day taking huge pulls to bring stuff back and protect their GC guy, thankfully I don’t have to live that life yet. Being a good teammate was a pretty new experience, but it was cool to actually to see the importance of it.
As we were cresting the hill, I was bummed to see Jordan and another rider had come off the group. He hopped in and we made our drive for home. MISERY- is about the only word I can think of for the remaining 28 miles. We lost our GC but the two of us tried pretty dang hard to hold it against the best guys in the country.
After feeling pretty shattered after Stage 3, I wasn’t jumping for joy to get this stage started. Looking outside the window from our host house, the rain was coming down hard. Luckily it cleared up right before our race and the sun came out.
Made this high quality piece of clothing in case it didn’t stop raining.
A lof racers say this is one of the hardest crits in America. It’s an 8 turn crit with about 2500 feet of climbing in 85 minutes. The field was down to 108 racers so I was hoping the crit would whittle down pretty quickly. The USAC officials claimed it was a 20% rule, so for a finishing time you had to make it to 68 minutes (To many racers delight- USA cycling was letting guys get pro rated times even if they only made it 30 minutes). While there were turns, the elevation loss gain made for some super fast descents- looking at Strava I hit close to 50 mph on a few laps. I was at the middle to back of the pack for the first 30 minutes. I wanted to stay comfortable and save as much energy to get through to the finish. The hill was actually a place for me to recover because it was so steep, and I used my body weight to my advantage
As the race kept progressing, the pace continued to ramp up with Jamis on the front. Attacks kept going, but nothing was even close to sticking. Lot’s of riders were dropping off the pace so I decided it was time to work my way up the peloton. With 15 minutes left it started to rain, guys were getting sketched out and crashing, but luckily I ran lower tire pressure so I was ready. With 5 laps left the pace upped to super quick and I positioned myself near the front. With a group of 20 still on pace, I was starting to get excited I was still there. My adrenaline was picking up like crazy and I was feeling awesome. I knew that regardless of what wheel I took to the lead up- it was going to be all about pure power. Coming across the line with one lap to go, Optum, Smart stop, and Jamis were the big three jockeying for position. Thankfully the pace was so high- there weren’t a lot of riders and teammates left. So even the powerhouses didn’t have a lot of riders left late in the game. I started keying off Brad Huff because well-he’s awesome.
We came to the final turn and I took Brad’s wheel (I think). Whichever Optum rider it was, he took the inside and so did I. I lost a bit of speed with the sharp angle, but started to wind up my sprint. It was fast, and I put down as much as I could without losing traction in the rain. I came across the line in 12th- hundredths of seconds from my first top 10 NRC finish.
Can be seen on the left. Ton’s of photo time for my right arm.
AND I WAS HAPPY AGAIN!! Moral of the story- even if you aren’t feeling great, there’s always that chance for a day where everything comes together. That was that day and I am thankful for it.
Coming back from Joe Martin, I’m learning a lot. I still have so much to learn, but it’s crazy how much different the pro peloton is. It’s been taking a lot to learn since I left running 2 years ago. Organization and tactics take huge precedent, and sometimes- not being aggressive is good. Sure being aggressive can lead to awesome things, but in my case- I was patient and it paid off.